I've always known the story of the starving artist as something of a source of aspiration. Creative work was not supposed to come easy, only from blood, sweat, and tears. No rent money, you burn your books to survive the winter, sell your guitar to travel through the summer. The figures and stories to prove all that escape me now, but I know that expecting to suffer for your art can make you sick.
Waking up with your first thought being how quickly life is passing you by is not a good morning start. It's a cruel process to compress the day before it has begun to a fast-forward failure. If I was naive enough to think I know 100% exactly what it takes to become the person I want to be, there was no stopping to smell the roses. I was burning rubber, breathing in the fumes and seeing stars.
My medicine for the week was one small decision: chill out. I caught myself red-handed, writing out impossible steps to reach who knows what levels. Trying to be better was not supposed to make me this upset. And if waking up to that realization wasn't enough, Danielle LaPorte gave me some bubble gum medicine and a pat on the back. In her latest book, The Desire Map, LaPorte proves we have goal-setting backward. It's bullshit. You're going to drown if you think swimming through lava will bring you to an island bliss. LaPorte puts it simply: "Feeling good is the primary intention." Yes, you can still work hard and stay up late. Yes, you can still battle obstacles and go to war with challenges. It just means you sign up for it. You should be excited and driven by your thoughts, not defeated before you even start.
The main idea of The Desire Map was actually a meditation revamped and improved upon from LaPorte's first book, The Fire Starter Sessions: "Knowing how you actually want to feel is the most potent form of clarity that you can have. Generating those feelings is the most powerfully creative thing you can do with your life." Instead of drafting the bucket list we think we want to cross off, we should start with the feelings we want in the moment. What's going to make you feel accomplished? Smart? Attractive? What's going to make you feel important? Once you can nail down your core-desired feelings, you can eat up opportunities for breakfast.
Beware! You wouldn't chance it bench-pressing 300 lbs. on your first day at the gym. You wouldn't eat a kale salad for lunch one day and call yourself healthy forever. Don't think I woke up one morning all better, right as rain, and ready to go. It's a process of building muscle, chugging along, adapting to the environment. We don't just wake up successful, so why do we trick ourselves into thinking anything else can change completely overnight?
Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, made this crystal-clear discussing procrastination with Big Think. An investigative journalist cracking open habit patterns, Duhigg stated, "Give yourself permission to take a little bit of time to practice because you're building up neural pathways associated with a certain behavior. And those neural pathways just build up over time, you cant speed up that process any more than is natural." Duhigg talks about the habit of checking Facebook in a cubicle job and understanding that for some this is a habit too hard to break, so we need to exercise our focus and willpower to exorcise the silly social network.
Give yourself as much time as you need to do the things you want, the things that excite you, the things that make you you. As bestselling author and cartoonist Hugh MacLeod said, "As long as you feel inspired, your life is being well spent." With inspiration, you lose track of time. There is no pain enough to stop you. Nothing matters in the end except the feeling itself.
Until next time...
I explode into space.